Any account of Wells Fargo & Company involves a history of the more dramatic aspects of the Old West. From 1852 to 1918, the company's operations bisected almost all social, cultural, and economic activities in the Trans-Mississippi West and were conducted in diverse physical landscapes. Its early history illuminates the booms and busts of gold and silver mining rushes, the collection and distribution of mail, the rise and fall of banks, the Pony Express, overland staging, the building of the transcontinental railroad, the Civil War and Indian wars, the violence of robbers and gunfighters, the development of agriculture, the rise of capitalist entrepreneurs, the regulation and disbanding of monopolies, and the return of the entrepreneurs with deregulation. In January 1848, Wells Fargo's agents in California's gold regions provided basic banking and safe express transport services of gold and letters for thousands of miners, using Concord stagecoaches, 'built stout' to withstand the rigours of Western travel.
Along with the nostalgic appeal of its Old West identity, readers will discover that speed, security, and connectivity have been constants in the company's long history, themes that remain more important than ever in modern banking today, from credit cards to cashpoint machines.
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(214mm x 139mm x 20mm)
The Free Press
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Country of Publication:
UK Kirkus Review »
Deadwood stages coming on over the hills, injun arrows thicker than porcupine quills - the popular image of Wells Fargo and the Wild West. And pretty near the truth, too, as this pacey book reveals. From Wells Fargo's early days to the massive conglomerate it has become today, the story has been one of triumph over adversity. Above all, it has been one of courage. Wild West expert Fradkin is mainly concerned with the company's early days, from 1852 when it challenged the government's postal monopoly to 1918 when stagecoaches had become fondly remembered relics. The characters involved with the legendary company are given their own voices, and through them we are told just what it meant to venture into 'Indian country' with only a team of six horses and a deadeye rifleman for protection. One of these riflemen, or 'shotguns', was Wyatt Earp, who went on to establish his own place in American folklore. Fradkin shows how tenuous the white man's hold was on North America even as late as the mid-19th century. Bandits of all types were ready to waylay and shoot strangers with either bullets or arrows, and mail coaches were regarded as especially easy targets. Then along came Messrs Wells and Fargo who guaranteed that they could transport even the most valuable goods across the continent not only in the face of bandits but also dead on time - dead often being the operative word. The story is one of enterprise, boom and bust, and cut-throat business. Through it all, Wells Fargo prospered. It saw off the Pony Express, private banking enterprises, and even (for a time at least) the railroads. But, as Fradkin illustrates, the success was not always due to hardnosed business. The company remained afloat despite often failing to meet the challenges of new technology until almost too late. Here truly is the pioneering spirit, a tale of endeavour. Those looking for an analysis of Wells Fargo's financial history will be disappointed. Fradkin's account is more of an adventure story - one with the gripping ring of truth, colourfully told and well illustrated. (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - Philip L. Fradkin
Philip L. Fradkin is the author of nine critically acclaimed books about the American West and Alaska. He shared a Pulitzer Prize for his work at the Los Angeles Times, and he has taught writing courses at the University of California at Berkeley and at Stanford University. He lives in San Francisco.